Dave Stewart recalls his fling with Stevie Nicks — and how it led to a hit with Tom Petty
In an exclusive excerpt from Sweet Dreams Are Made of This: A Life in Music, Dave Stewart’s scintillating memoir (Feb. 4, NAL), the former Eurythmics member recalls a wild night of love — and drugs — with Stevie Nicks (and the drama that followed)
We continued touring America for the remainder of 1984. When Annie [Lennox] and I played the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, the place was absolutely packed with half of the L.A. music industry and a host of famous musicians. There was hardly room for the general public. It was a wild show. There were a lot of musicians and singers backstage, and one of them was Stevie Nicks.
Stevie was in my dressing room doorway, wearing a faux-fur coat just like the first time I met Annie. Underneath she wore a black lace dress and she had long, flowing hair. I didn’t know who she was, but there was something about her that I was instantly attracted to. Stevie remembers that I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I want to be your boyfriend.” Little did I know that the day before, [The Eagles’] Joe Walsh and Stevie had had a big fight and had broken up. She invited me back to her house for a party, and 10 minutes later, still in full sweaty leather stage gear, I was in the back of a limo with Stevie and her backing singers. When we got there it wasn’t really a party: just Stevie and her singers being very speedy, laughing and talking. The house seemed enormous to me, so I wandered around, and when I came back to the living room, they had all disappeared into a bathroom for what seemed like hours. Actually it was hours. At around three in the morning, I ended up saying to myself, “OK, I’m really tired now and I have no idea where I am or which hotel Annie and the band are staying in.”
I just went to bed in one of the four bedrooms upstairs. I woke up at about 5 a.m. to the sound of doors rustling open and in the half-light saw Stevie opening and closing closets, as if it was the middle of the afternoon. Obviously they were all still wide awake, aided, I imagine, by what we in England call “marching powder.” Stevie went back in the bathroom and about an hour later came out in a long Victorian nightdress and quietly slipped into the other side of the bed. Stevie is an incredibly talented, soulful and beautiful woman. There was a fair amount of what I’d call skirmishing that went on. I remember at one point actually falling backward out of bed onto the floor, which made us both laugh hysterically. Stevie recently told me that all she could see when she came out of the bathroom that night was a mound of black leather and chains on the floor and a wild head of hair poking out of the bed covers. I remember making love once, but she later told me we made love twice. And then she said, “I remember clearly because I was wide awake, wired on cocaine.” It was all very good-humored and sweet, but also romantic in a rock’n’roll kind of way.
I was woken up at about 9:30 a.m. by Stevie saying I had to leave because someone might have been coming around to collect their clothes, and things could get tricky. I didn’t like the sound of “tricky,” so I phoned my management, found out where the band was staying and jumped in a cab.
After San Francisco we had some time off, and I decided to go back to L.A. to see Stevie again. Jimmy Iovine, the great producer who went on to start Interscope Records in the early ’90s, had invited me to stay with him at his house, and this was where it got interesting. I had no idea of the complexity of the relationships among Jimmy, Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty at the time. But I was soon to find out more than I ever imagined.
Jimmy had been living with Stevie in 1981 when he was producing her album Bella Donna, which was a huge success. Now he was working on her next album, except this time around they were not together. Stevie said later that it was because she was so addicted to drugs at that time.
I played Jimmy the demo of “Don’t Come Around Here No More” [which Stewart co-wrote and co-produced], and he said, “Wow! This is going to be great. Let’s make it for Stevie’s album.”
I jumped at the chance to work with Stevie, and we went right into the studio a few days later. When we started recording, Stevie was acting strangely and not really coming out of the bathroom much.
There seemed to have been quite a bit of friction between them. I had no idea that it was because they had been living together and were now broken up. Finally, Stevie appeared with her lyric book and started to sing into the microphone.
I was mesmerized until Jimmy said, “She’s reciting f–ing Shakespeare!” He did have a point; it was kind of Shakespearean and very odd. He was trying to get Stevie to change the lyrics. Stevie was upset and the discussion became very tense. He was saying, “Can you stop arguing with me in front of my friend David? You don’t really know him.” And she said, “Your friend? What are you talking about? We slept together the other night.” I turned white and stared at the floor, wondering what was coming next. Fortunately Stevie turned, walked out the door and left the studio.
I thought Jimmy was going to ask, “What does that mean?” But he just said, “I know what we should do. We should get Tom Petty down here to finish writing the song with you. He’s great.”
This story originally appeared in the Feb. 6 issue of Billboard.
Billboard / Saturday, February 6, 2016